As Mike Brey has wanted all season, the Irish are officially "in the conversation" for the NCAA Tournament. Riding high after a four-game winning streak, that conversation has shifted somewhat to talk about seeding and first round matchups when just two weeks ago it seemed unlikely that ND would even make it in. First things first, however.
The Big East Tournament begins today. Obviously, the game of note is that 10/15 matchup tonight which will decide our second round opponent. With a 15 point win over Providence in hand (from way back in December), it's pretty fair to say that a Friar win would be beneficial. However, this Irish team can expect to be favored against Seton Hall, as well.
As far as Big East bubble teams go, watch the Pirates and South Florida this week. Seton Hall doesn't have any really bad losses this year and could potentially steal our bid with a win against the Irish on Wednesday. The Bulls have a bit of a tougher road, with Georgetown and Syracuse potentially waiting in the wings. If they made it all the way to Thursday and played the Orange tough, however, this could also be a late entry into the Tournament.
What about Notre Dame's hopes? I think that it is safe to say that the Irish are in with at least one win in the BET this week. That would place the Irish at 11-9 in the conference and 4-1 in their last five. The committee loves to see teams that step their game up down the stretch, perform well without a star player, and beat other bubble teams when it counts. This ND team has done all of that, a huge improvement over previous seasons.
Notre Dame's Record over its Last Five Games (Regular Season and BET)-
2010- 4-1 (barring a Big East Championship)
While the Irish faltered big time under the microscope in other big bubble years such as '05, '06, and '09, this squad has been able to turn it on when it counts and has been successful against much better competition than the 2007 and 2008 Tournament teams faced in crunch time.
Other Bubble Teams-
Of course, the other part of this postseason equation relies on how other potential Tournament teams fare in their conference playoffs. With Saint Mary's, Siena, and Old Dominion all taking care of business, the bubble picture has cleared up just a little bit. By comparison, the Irish are 21-10, 10-8, 49th (Pomeroy), and 59th (RPI).
Washington- (21-9, 11-7, 33rd Pomeroy, 49th RPI) Joe Lunardi and The Bracket Project's first team out, the Huskies face Oregon State before a probable bubble play-off against the Sun Devils.
Arizona State- (22-9, 12-6, 37th Pomeroy, 52nd RPI) Split the season series with the Huskies and performed well in a very bad Pac-10, but most likely need to reach the conference finals to earn a bid. Friday could be a very big matchup.
Illinois- (18-13, 10-8, 56th Pomeroy, 74th RPI) Has just fallen apart down the stretch, losing five of their past six. Play a very good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Tournament that just trounced them. Even a win in that game may not be enough. It will be a travesty if this conference gets more than four teams in.
San Diego State- (22-8, 11-5, 44th Pomeroy, 36th RPI) The exact opposite of Illinois, San Diego State is a pretty good small conference team that has performed well enough when it counts to merit some consideration. As long as they don't drop a first round matchup with Colorado State, they will have a shot at solidifying an entry into the NCAAs against top seed New Mexico.
Mississippi- (21-9, 9-7, 51st Pomeroy, 57th RPI) Have played well down the stretch and could potentially face Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Need a win there to be a lock, but could still make it as long as they are not upset by the Tennessee/LSU winner on Friday.
As always, The Bracket Project does a nice job of compiling a whole bunch of different projections for you. Currently the Irish are listed as a 10 seed and make the Tourney in 73 of the 76 brackets. I'd take that in a heartbeat over the 8/9 game.